Photo is from the Abel Collection
Happy Marines from Company H, 2d Battalion, 5th
Marines display the Viet Cong banner that flew from a flagpole in the
courtyard of the Provincial Building. The Marines raised the American
flag, in its stead, ignoring for a time a MACV directive that forbade
the display of the U.S. flag without the South Vietnamese flag beside
3 prisoners, and captured an assortment of enemy small arms and ammunition.
The company sustained 1 dead and 14 wounded in the fight.47
The province headquarters had served as a symbol for both the NVA
and the Marines in the modem city. A now-rrayed flag ot the Viet Cong
National Liberation Front had flown from the flagpole in the courtyard
of the provincial building since the NVA initial takeover of the city.
Immediately after the capture of the headquarters, two Marines rushed
into the courtyard and hauled down the enemy ensign. Gunnery Sergeant
Frank A. Thomas 'vaulted through a hole in the wall' and ran to the
flagpole clutching an American flag. As a CBS television crew filmed
the event, Thomas raised the Stars and Stripes on the pole.* According
to Thomas, 'We never knew exactly where the flag came from, but when
we said we wanted an American flag to raise, one of our Marines produced
one a very few minutes later.' For this one time, the Marines ignored
the MACV directive that forbade the display of the U.S. flag without
the South Vietnamese national banner beside it.48**
The capture of the provincial headquarters was more than symbolic.
The building apparently had served as the command post for the 4th NVA
Regiment. Once the headquarters tell to the Marines much of the enemy
organized resistance in southern Hue collapsed. Lieutenant Colonel Cheatham
remarked on the enemy's lack of maneuverabiliry. Once the Marines overcame
a NVA strongpoint, although a gap might exist between the Marine companies,
the enemy troops 'never enveloped, they never came back around behind
us or anything.' As Lieutenant Smith from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines
wrote, from 6 February forward '[Company] A began to roll and although
we took more casualties, we never had a day to match' the earlier righting.
Lieutenant Colonel Gravel was even more emphatic:
He [the NVA] seemed
w lose his stomach for the tight. . . . once we started rolling .
. . the main force sort
* Former Washington Post Correspondent Peter Braestrup commented
that as the flag was raised, 'NVA soldiers in covered foxholes were
discovered at the same time-and shown on CBS film.' Peter Braesrrup,
Comments on draft, n.d. [Dec94-Jan95] (Vietnam Comment File).
** Brigadier General Downs, who commanded Company F in 1968, related
that in September 1991 when the Aegis Cruiser CG 66 Hue City
was officially commissioned, 'The first flag raised on that ship was
the same flag that was raised in front of the Provincial Headquarters
Building on 6Feb68 and the flag was raised by Gunny Thomas and the two
Marines who assisted him.' Downs Taped Comments, Dec92.
Page 190 (1968: The Defining Year)